Each month we pass the responsibility of having the final say to a guest columnist. This issue, we hand the reins over to Carl Emery – one of the brains behind record store Dig Vinyl – to explain why they’ve chosen to celebrate Saturday 16th April as the shop’s birthday and not participate in any official Record Store Day activity.
Dig Vinyl, as it is now and in its previous forms, has been in bed with Record Store Day for the past five years. Like many relationships, it started with wide-eyed wonder, moved into moments of excitement and recently hit the slightly indifferent phase. On the back of this, in January (RSD registration time), we took a long hard look in the mirror and decided it was time to move on. We would like to say, ‘It’s not you, it’s me’, but the truth is slightly more complicated – isn’t it always!
From our perspective we are fundamentally a second-hand record shop. The driving force has always been to create a shop where you come in for a Bowie album and leave with not just a copy of Low but also an obscure Hungarian jazz funk opus and a forgotten punk 7”. However, we have always stocked a smattering of new releases, so when Dig opened it made sense to be a part of RSD. The noise and attention that RSD created, along with an (ever-decreasing) list of interesting releases, was a timely and supportive boost to establishing a new shop – and for this we are thankful. But we have moved on; we have grown and we have become confident in who we are and what we do. Not doing RSD has been a big decision for us, but it no longer fits who we are.
Part of our discomfort is due to the price of official RSD-affiliated releases, the preponderance of re-issues and the ordering process itself. The staff of Dig have worked in record shops and the music business for over 25 years and we are of the firm opinion that no new ‘standard’ release should sell for more than £14. We know the costs and we know the supplier prices, and the current model is moving in the direction of the music industry milking and once again killing the product that we and other vinyl lovers refused to let die. As for re-issues, for many of the releases you can come into our shop and purchase the original for half the price. There is no scarcity of 808 State, Jethro Tull or Sex Pistols records, never mind Carl Douglas! Finally, for a small independent shop to organise and manage the RSD ordering process is tantamount to planning the D-day landings. The time and financial commitment are virtually impossible to meet.
Nothing in life stands still. When RSD started it was operating in a different land, with vinyl sales and record shops on their knees. Context is everything and if RSD continues in its current form there is a danger of it doing the opposite of what it states it is intended to do – to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding independent record stores. By this we mean that buying a record (and by that often a glossy, overpriced re-issue) becomes simply part of a ‘lifestyle’ event. This is a thin and unsustainable version of the much thicker, inescapable itch and deep joy the vinyl lover experiences; our aim is to support the thick version of vinyl buying and collecting, and we are confident that we can pursue this without the safety net of RSD as it currently is.
Dig Vinyl celebrate their birthday on Saturday 16th April with a host of guest DJs playing in their Bold Street store throughout the day.